Ororo Munroe is believed to be dead. Performing a ceremony of remembrance in the sewer system beneath Manhattan for the deformed outcast mutants who once dwelt there, something happened. Cable, her colleague found a faceless copse at the site that must have been Storm …
Ororo Munroe is not dead. At the climax of the ceremony, the air caught fire … and a hand reached out from the flames to grasp her. It released her …elsewhere. The air is thin and bitter, the earth dead and dry as a desert grave. The few fauna moving breathily across the dust are fat with stolen blood … their eyes mad and poisonous. And everything is on a slope. The entire place, she realizes, is one huge hill.
She starts to head up trying to get a feel for the place. First question: is there weather here?
She raises the aspect of the wind goddess, as her powers activate deep within her brain and the alien sky unlocks his secrets for her. She is too new to exert control, but she can see the weather systems of the hill. Horrendously damaged though it is, it still hangs full of unusual possibilities. But brittle white flocks of dead bird hang there also. Skeins of heat run through the sky… and clouds begin to gather more intently as she looks. Building into thunderheads heavy with poison moisture. A storm is growing.
Storm starts running. She needs cover because she has sensed the composition of the inevitable rain that will attend this storm. Acid rain. Sulfuric acid rain. The first drops that hit her are weak and itch. In moments, the rain will grow richer in menace and burn her to the bone …
Westchester, the Xavier Institute:
Cable stands in a hallway, studying a portrait that depicts Storm in a traditional African dress and headdress. He never really knew her and she’s dead. And that bothers Cable a lot more than he ever expected it to. He takes a swallow of beer. It’s not like he’s never found corpses before. Is it different for him, Cyclops asks him. Having been a professional soldier for so long, is it different dealing with these types of situations? Seeing so much death, living with it… Has he developed a set of reflexes to deal with these times?
He thought he had, Cable states thoughtfully, before asking who painted the portrait. Peter Rasputin, Colossus, Cyclops answers. Storm always though he captured her essence in that painting. Peter has suffered so many losses… losing Ororo as well would be difficult for him. She was like family. But, Scott stresses that he’s still far from convinced Storm’s been killed.
Storm refuses to run from the weather anymore. She is the storm. The air twists and begins to flow very quickly. The wind screams like sirens around her, presenting in its hurricane motion an almost solid surface to the terrible rain. The rain hisses, cheated as it slides over the shield of wind and away. And the wind goddess moves uphill.
The acid storm passes miserably. Rising, Storm enters a steel forest, screeching quietly to itself through speakers budding from its branches. This is the first sign resembling vegetation she has yet seen here. She kneels down to examine it. It indicates life, of a sort. She has her suspicions about the place but attempts to hold them at bay as she grasps a flower… a technological flower whose markings and complexity she recognizes. She exclaims that she must be wrong.
Looking around, she sees shabby settlements, built from the complex mechanical vegetation growing up this length of the hill. She hates the sight of them. The outcasts beneath Manhattan, the Morlocks were killed - all save a select few. Who were taken elsewhere and returned in fantastically complex armor, looking a lot like this vegetation. Time runs a lot faster in the place the elite Morlocks were removed to. Those who Storm knew as children returned within months as hard-eyed murderous adults.
Red energy comes from one of the huts felling Storm. Four bizarre beings come out of it, one of them telling the other not to plasma it anymore. They could sell a pretty corpse. Could buy another couple hundred yards uphill with it.
Ororo’s eyes begin to glow red. Nature is beauty, she tells them, but it also predation.
Energy crackles around her, as she grips the weather in an angry hand and squeezes. The possibilities are endless. She could cast down calcium arrows from the skeleton belt floating above the cloud layer. Glassine fragments hanging within the clouds could focus light from the invisible sun allowing her to fling ruby lasers from the sky. She poses maliciously for a moment, showing them the storm and then moves like an electric panther slashing towards them… disaster flashing in her eyes. She could kill them all. She settles for hitting them with lightning. She doesn’t have to kill.
She moves towards one of the mutants who isn’t unconscious, telling him she’s in a bad mood. What is this place and where is she, she demands. They call it the Hill, the Morlock whines, because that’s what it is. That’s what his daddy said before the guy half a mile up killed him. They’re all trying to get uphill, where the old father is. That’s all they’re trying to do. Just get uphill. Once they figure they get a fair way uphill, they top and have kids with whoever’s there. The kids will be tougher and be able to get further uphill and win.
Storm recognizes the mad Darwinist creed of Apocalypse. She knows who is at the top of the hill but will not admit it to herself.
Westchester, 12: 15 AM
Where do he and Jean get the certainty that Storm is still alive, Cable inquires of his father, Scott Summers. There is no psychic imprint he reminds them. They’ve all psi-scanned for her. Why can’t they admit she’s gone? It’s not like Scott has never had an X-Man die before. Thunderbird died on his first mission. He’ll admit it when he sees her body and not before, Scott replies. He’s aware of the casualties of their lifestyle. He’s lost people. He felt the pain and emptiness. When they thought Jean had died, he thought he’d die too. Maybe he isn’t willing to feel that again unless he absolutely has to. Maybe that makes him a coward in Cable’s eyes.
No, Cable explains. It’s just that he saw his wife die. He had to face the fact that she was gone. It was the only way he could keep her with him. He didn’t know Storm well, but she reminded him of Aliyah, The same kind of inner strength. Jean wants to tell him about Ororo’s strength. She and Cable would have a lot to talk about. They both had childhoods rougher than Jean could imagine.
(flashback to Storm’s past)
Storm came from East Harlem, but it wasn’t big enough to contain her parents’ dreams. In Egypt, she lost her parents to a bomb and was buried alive with her dead mother’s body. She carries the scars of that time in her severe claustrophobia. Alone, she lived off the streets of Cairo as a thief. Then, when her mutant-powers had only begun to manifest themselves, the Professor asked her to help him. Ororo didn’t know him or the X-Men, but threw away everything she knew to take a chance on a stranger. Few are that brave. Cable knows that she’s done so many things which were hard for her, but she’s done them because they were right.
Jean thinks Cable knows her better than he believes. He reminds Jean of Ororo.
Storm flies upwards, musing about Apocalypse’s insane doctrine of “survival of the fittest.” Seeing his madness applied to an entire society sickens her. She assumes the man who created this society is atop the hill. She hopes against hope it is not the man she expects.
Beneath her, she sees a pass on the Hill and two groups fighting for progressing. They do not even question the insanity of their lives anymore. They simply eat and breed and kill and walk uphill. Among the warriors she sees Callisto who shouts angrily that he may have thrown her back here, but her opponent isn’t keeping her here. Looking upwards, she catches a glimpse of Storm.
Storm surfaces through the cloud layer left with a film of oil on her skin in passing. The summit is attained. The fortress squatting on its peak attempt to look majestic, but succeeds only in being monstrous. She lands and strides towards its entrance, already expected by a hulking shape of a man. At last, he announces. He’d feared the transition had damaged her and that the ascension would be beyond her abilities. Does she remember him? Mikhail Rasputin, older and scarred, asks. It has been many years for him and he forgets how time passes in the other place.
Mikhail Rasputin. Killer of the Morlocks, Storm states. It was he who took her. Yes, Rasputin agrees. He still bears ties to her world. He always senses the performance of a Ceremony of Light, such as she enacted. He always opens a door there to see who’s doing it. And, seeing the leader of the X-Men, who also once led the Morlocks, he thought it only right to show her how her children have grown. Kneeling in front of Ororo and grasping her hand as if in mockery of a marriage proposal, Mikhail tells her that they learn well, her children … their children. He remains their guiding hand. But, as he is their hard and loving father, perhaps they yet need a mother.